Mortelle Randonne
Wellspring // Unrated // $24.98 // November 11, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted December 6, 2003
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Movie: Noir movies, particularly French noir movies, have been a staple of moviegoers for years. To see the gritty underside of the world by means of a very focused point of view seems almost a given in the genre, or at very least a staple. In an intriguing thriller from twenty years ago, Mortelle Randonnee, director Claude Miller brings us a story about a man, a killer, and the psychological workings of their minds.

The movie started off by introducing a private detective in France, Beauvoir (Michel Serrault) known by the underworld as "The Eye". His wife left him years ago, taking their small daughter Marie with her to parts unknown. The daughter is now grown up, never having known her father, and despite his skills as a detective, he has been unable (or unwilling, we're never quite sure which) to find her. His ex-wife calls him infrequently to torment him, feeding him just enough information to keep him hooked but never enough to let him discover her whereabouts.

After establishing his background a bit, the story sets him on a case. His boss has him checking the background of a young woman who is going out with the son of a rich industrialist. Apparently, dear old dad doesn't want his son to fall for a bad girl. Needless to say, when Beauvoir catches her dumping a body in a lake, he begins a long journey into madness, thinking she may be his missing daughter. He then follows her around the globe as she continues to attract rich men, fleece them, and then leave them dead. Eventually, his obsession with her grows to the point where he covers up her crimes and tries to protect her from herself, knowing full well that as he gets closer to her flame, he may well end up another of her victims.

The woman is played by then-young Isabelle Adjani, a very attractive gal that still manages to turn heads decades later. Her character managed at once to attract and repel me, which is as much the result of her performance as of the well thought out script. The supporting cast was not as fully fleshed out as the two leads but all did a decent job of providing the necessary framework to enhance the main thrust of the plot. I'm not going to give away the details of the story, certainly not the ending either, but suffice it to say that the law of cause and effect was in full force here with none spared from their fate.

The direction of the movie was also well done, especially compared to the domestic remake a few years back Eye Of The Beholder, both of which were based on the original novel by Marc Behm. From the scenery to the metaphorical imagery, Miller's vision takes the book beyond its original scope and adds something deeper, and more sinister, than one would expect. After the first ten minutes, I was hooked and wanted to know exactly what would become of these two, feeling the conclusion would be blacker than black. Isn't it funny that sometimes you get surprised by how a movie ends, although it doesn't happen often these days?

So, what to rate a movie that admittedly plays as much for the ending as for how you get there? I think it's worth a Recommended although noir fans will undoubtedly think it worth more. The overall content was not high on replay value and many folks aren't keen on older French movies with subtitles but if you're willing to put in the minimal amount of effort this one requires to fully understand it, you'll probably appreciate it a lot.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, not the advertised 1.66:1 ratio, which led me to believe it was cropped a bit in order to achieve that ratio. It was not anamorphic widescreen but looked fairly solid for a low budget movie from France made over two decades ago. In the first half of the movie, the problems were minimal, only minor grain and a soft focus being immediately noticeable, although the flesh tones seemed very accurate. In the second half of the movie, the grain got worse and the compression artifacts seemed more obvious but while the movie will never be a great choice to show off your top of the line equipment, it wasn't too bad.

Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 French with optional English subtitles but there wasn't a lot of separation between the channels. The vocals were clear and the sound effects, including the music, seemed added in after the fact but not bad for the genre of movie.

Extras: The only extras were the limited filmographies and trailer to the feature. There were no paper inserts for those keeping track.

Final Thoughts: The English title for the movie translates, somewhat loosely if you believe my French Moroccan neighbor to Death Run and the box listed it as Deadly Run which seemed accurate enough. I liked the story and the elements of detail that went into it but a few extras would've made me appreciate it more fully. The picture and sound were okay but main reason to check this one out would be the writing, direction and performances by the two leads.

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